Craft beer is in the middle of a moment. Since 2011, the number of US breweries has skyrocketed from 1,776 to 3,739, with nearly 700 opening in the past year alone. Greater Boston and Western Massachusetts together have more than 60 companies, and now the craft-beer movement is swelling in the midsection of the state as well. For your Central Mass. touring pleasure, consider this sampling of great (but perhaps lesser-known) breweries between Framingham and Monson. Please enjoy this list responsibly.
MEDUSA BREWING COMPANY
111 Main Street, Hudson, 978-310-1933, medusabrewing.com
Keith Antul has been brewing beer for years, throwing annual parties for friends and family to try his latest concoctions. Now he’s doing it on a larger scale for anyone who walks through the door of Medusa, which he started with Keith Sullivan and Tom Sutter. After 14 months in the works, the brewery and taproom opened in October 2014. And they’re already looking to expand. The chalkboard of daily beers behind the beautifully crafted wood bar is always changing and filled with a variety of styles. There are board games if you’re looking to stay awhile. Try some of their German pretzels or bring your own food (BYOF!).
Hours: Open Wednesdays through Fridays, 4 to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 10 p.m. They fill growlers (glass jugs sold by most breweries) as well as beers by the glass.
Try: The hopilicious Double IPA Laser Cat or one of the evolving Solo Project beers
81 Morton Street, Framingham, 508-872-0900, jacksabbybrewing.com
Founded in 2011 by brothers Jack, Sam, and Eric Hendler, Jack’s Abby focuses on refining the lost art of lagers. Jack, the brewer, hops some of his beers as if they were IPAs — he calls his concoctions India pale lagers. In others, he plays with malts to make smoky brews that resemble porters. The unusual approach has resulted in a staggering demand — in the current space, weekends can be packed. Luckily, the brewery is planning a move to 100 Clinton Street in Framingham this fall, where there will be a canning line and a 5,000-square-foot taproom and restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas.
Hours: Open for tours on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. The tasting room is open for growler fills and tastings Wednesdays through Saturdays, noon to 8 p.m.
Try: Mass Rising, a double India pale lager, and Smoke & Dagger, a chocolaty and smoky black lager
TREE HOUSE BREWING COMPANY
160 East Hill Road, Monson, 413-523-2367, treehousebrew.com
Cofounded by Nate Lanier, Dean Rohan, and Damien Goudreau in Lanier’s kitchen, Tree House has upgraded to a state-of-the-art facility on a farm in Monson (just over the Worcester County line in the Pioneer Valley). Its fruit-forward IPAs have none of the bitterness often associated with the style, and they pour with a near Creamsicle-colored hop haze. Tree House is serious about freshness: The only way to get its beer is at the brewery.
Hours: Open Thursdays and Fridays, 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., for filling growlers or 750ml bottles. Cans are also available.
Try: Julius, a fruit bomb of an IPA, a beer from the Curiosity IPA series, or a darker offering like Good Morning
WACHUSETT BREWING COMPANY
175 State Road East, Westminster, 978-874-9965, wachusettbrew.com
Back in the late 1980s, Worcester Polytechnic Institute students Ned LaFortune and Kevin Buckler built a draft system and bar in their off-campus apartment, where friend Peter Quinn was a frequent guest. Then they started brewing their own stuff, which proved an instant hit. The three early adopters opened Wachusett Brewing Company in 1994 and have been going strong since.
Hours: Open for tours and growler fills Mondays through Wednesdays and Saturdays, noon to 5 p.m., and Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 6 p.m. They sell cans, bottles, and kegs.
Try: Green Monsta IPA, an easy drinker that combines Cascade, Amarillo, and Centennial hops
72 Shrewsbury Street, Worcester, 774-239-1555, wormtownbrewery.com
For years, Ben Roesch worked in the brewery business and dreamed of opening his own place in his hometown of Worcester. He finally got the chance in 2010, when he was invited to take over space in the Peppercorn’s restaurant building. Wormtown Brewery took off. In March, Wormtown moved into a new facility, with a taproom and patio space on the liveliest street in Worcester. Demand is so high that Roesch has barely had a chance to get his new bottling line running to its full potential, but he’s planning on it.
Hours: The taproom sells beer by the glass, as well as growlers, bottles, and cans to take home, on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 9 p.m. Wormtown does not offer tours.
Try: Be Hoppy, a dry and highly drinkable IPA, and the well-balanced and fruity Bottle Rocket Pale Ale
195 Arnold Road, Sturbridge, 508-347-7500, drinkrapscallion.com
Rapscallion has been around in different places and under different names since 1993. But its newest incarnation started in 2008, when owners Cedric and Peter Daniel opened their taproom at Hyland Orchard in the Fiskdale section of Sturbridge. The brothers, who also operate Rapscallion Table & Tap in Acton, brought in a head brewer who makes delicious beers with hops that many other brewers have long forgotten.
Hours: Mondays through Wednesdays, 3 to 9 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays, 3 to 10 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 9 p.m. Growlers and 32-ounce cans are available.
Try: The bold Black IPA or the Rye IPA, which features five varieties of hops and goes down smoothly
BENTLEY BREWING COMPANY
12 Crane Street, Southbridge, bentleybrewing.com
Even though the original Bentley Brewing closed years ago, the sign outside its former home remained. That made picking a company name easy for Adam Golka and Mike Lynch, two home brewers who were invited to take up residence by the owner of Dark Horse Tavern in the building. It was the perfect spot from which to launch their own brewing operation — Southbridge is nearly the middle point between Golka’s home in Woodstock, Connecticut, and Lynch’s in Allston, Massachusetts — which they did in 2014. (A tasting room followed last April.) They’ve made the Bentley name their own.
Hours: The tasting room is open for samples, growler fills, and the sale of 750ml champagne-style bottles, on Saturdays from noon to 6 p.m.
Try: The amazing sour barrel aged barley wine Fancy Pants, as well as the Half Nelson Pale Ale
GARDNER ALE HOUSE
74 Parker Street, Gardner, 978-669-0122, gardnerale.com
There’s an old-world feel to the Gardner Ale House, which opened in 2006. With a system capable of producing seven barrels of beer, they brew just once a week, and that serves them just fine. They’re constantly rotating beers on and off their tap list and looking for new ways to test their drinkers’ taste buds by offering a wide variety of styles that pair well with their expansive food menu of pizzas, steaks, burgers, and more.
Hours: Serving beer on tap and filling growlers Sundays, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Mondays through Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Try: The potent Face-Off Double IPA that comes in at 10 percent alcohol by volume but goes down dangerously smoothly, or Oktoberfest Lager, which becomes available at their Oktoberfest Party in the Street on September 26
KBC BREWERY & BEER GARDEN
9 Frederick Street, Webster, 508-671-7711, kbcbrewery.com
Brian Kretschmann is an avid fan of European-style beers and, in particular, the kind from small German breweries that represent the villages they serve. Webster brims with people who can trace their roots to Poland and Germany, and that fits perfectly with the German lagers and Pilsners that Kretschmann has mastered. The brewery features picnic-table style seating and a long pine bar inside, as well as a large beer garden with a tent and two fire pits outside. It’s the perfect place to have a beer — or one of 12 fountain-style sodas with homemade syrup — and listen to some live music on the weekend.
Hours: Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4 to 9 p.m., Fridays, 4 to 11 p.m., and Saturdays, 2 to 11 p.m.
Try: The simple, but elegant Lake Lager, or the popular Hefeweizen
3CROSS BREWING COMPANY
26 Cambridge Street, Worcester, 3crossbrewing.com
The brewery 3cross, which opened in October 2014, remains something of a bicycle-themed work in progress. After Dave Howland built his setup, the demand was almost instantly overwhelming. Howland can brew 15 gallons of beer at a time and sells two to three barrels a week in pints served in the taproom or in growlers. Quantities are small, but there’s a good variety, ranging from Belgian to IPAs to porters. He also hosts events — bike rides, performances by local musicians, even yoga classes — and occasionally invites food trucks to park outside.
Hours: Open for poured pints and 4-ounce samplers as well as growler fills on Fridays 5 to 9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays 5 to 9 p.m.
Try: Single-Speed, a pale ale that’s a regular fixture on the ever-changing menu
Kevin Koczwara is a freelance writer in Worcester. Send comments to email@example.com.
This story has been updated from an earlier version to reflect a change in weekend hours at 3Cross Brewing Company.